French Kidnapped in Cameroon Were Taken Into NigeriaPius Lukong and Mark Deen
Seven French tourists, including four children, kidnapped in northern Cameroon were taken across the border into neighboring Nigeria, said Eloi Gabriel Essoa, a local official in Cameroon.
The people were taken at the village of Dabanga after visiting Waza National Park, he said by phone today from Kousseri, a town in the Far North region that borders Chad and Nigeria. The kidnappers were on motorcycles and the vehicle that the visitors were using was abandoned, said Essoa, a senior divisional officer there.
The kidnappings came a day after an Islamist group in Nigeria claimed responsibility for taking seven foreigners hostage at a construction site in the northern state of Bauchi. The hostages, including four Lebanese, a U.K. national, a Greek and an Italian, work for Setraco Nigeria Ltd., Hassan Mohammed, a police spokesman, said on Feb. 17 by phone from Bauchi, the state capital.
Nigerian police were informed of today’s kidnapping, Cameroonian regional Governor Awah Fonka Augustine said by phone, without giving details.
Speaking in Athens today, French President Francois Hollande said security was being stepped up in Africa for his country’s nationals.
“There is a terrorist danger in most of West Africa,” Hollande said. “The French who were taken hostage in Cameroon were there for professional reasons, even if they were on a tourist outing. We have told all our nationals in the region to be careful.”
Jamaatu Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladissudan, or “Vanguards for the Protection of Muslims in the Land of the Blacks,” the group that took the construction workers hostage, said in an e-mailed statement yesterday that its action was in response to “the transgressions and atrocities done to the religion of Allah” by European nations in countries such as Mali and Afghanistan.
France, which intervened in Mali to help it restore state control over a nation that vies with Tanzania as Africa’s third-biggest gold producer, has about 4,000 troops in that country.
Hollande said today special forces were involved in “serious engagements” in northern Mali. He said one soldier has been killed.
“We’re in the final phase of operations in Mali, though we’re not done yet,” Hollande said.
The government of Nigeria, Africa’s top oil producer, has been battling Boko Haram, another militant Islamist group, which has carried out gun and bomb attacks in the north and killed hundreds of people since 2009. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with more than 160 million people, is roughly split between the largely Muslim north and the predominantly Christian south.